"Freaks of the Heartland" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Steve Niles
Illustrated by Greg Ruth
2004, 162 Pages
Graphic Novel released on July 4th, 2012
Everyone has that black sheep in their family, the person that doesn't quite fit in. For most of us, that odd duck is just a weird uncle or someone with a strange hobby. For Trevor, it's his younger brother Will. He's not your average boy. Will's big and his head is oversized, like a big globe on top of his melon. His parents keep him chained up in the barn because they don't know what else to do with him...or they're just ashamed of him. Trevor doesn't see that when he looks at Will though. He just sees his brother.
This is the theme at the core of Freaks of the Heartland, written by Steve Niles (Criminal Macabre). It's a story about a boy and his brother. When Trevor's father decides to end this problem of his once and for all, the boy sets Will free and the two run away together. They quickly find that Will's deformities aren't the only thing that make him different from others. It also seems that there are others like Will nearby.
Freaks of the Heartland is a touching story about tolerance and loyalty. It's also a tale about some very ignorant people and how harmful that ignorance can be. Trevor's father — as well as the other parents in the area — can't accept Will for who and what he is. That boy is different and he doesn't fit into the cookie cutter mold for a child that they've developed over the course of generations. This book speaks volumes for some of the current political issues surrounding gay marriage.
Click images to enlarge.
Greg Ruth provided the artwork for Freaks of the Heartland and it's downright beautiful. His panels are presented in an almost Norman Rockwell-like nostalgia, bringing a simplicity to Niles' plot. There are often pages that go by with little to no dialogue because Ruth is able to tell so much with just an image, whether it's a sidelong glance or wind blowing through a field. More importantly, he's taken a character like Will, who could be seen as a hulking monster, and turned him into a human being. When you look in that boy's eyes, you see a regular everyday kid.
Freaks of the Heartland is the kind of comic that you read and just want to share with other people. It's a story of acceptance, which is something that can go a long way, especially in today's world. Yes, there are some violent scenes that are shocking, but they all mean something. Violence is used sparingly and to great effect. I would have liked to see a bit more of the background for Will and his abilities, but it's not necessary to enjoy the story. That's just my inner comic nerd that wants to find out every possible thing about a new book.